Redescribing, But Really, Finally Moving on From Israelite Origins

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Andrew Tobolowsky Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, William & Mary Williamsburg, VA USA

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Burton Mack’s 1996 article “On Redescribing Christian Origins” was a classic of the discipline. In my view, one of its most enduring contributions is its recognition that the centrality of the New Testament’s view of Christian Origins survives despite a growing recognition that, technically, it ought to be sidelined – that it is protected by a “ring of fire.” Further, he argued that the perseverance of this centrality was a major factor inhibiting the influence of New Testament studies on other disciplines. In this essay, I argue that the centrality of the Hebrew Bible’s vision of Israelite origins as a starting point for contemporary debates, even among those who regard it as a fiction, is characterized by a similar avoidance of certain necessary recognitions and is inhibiting to a similar degree.

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